In a large Atlanta cheating scandal involving 35 educators, 11 were convicted on Wednesday for racketeering. The educators were accused of taking part in a test cheating conspiracy of their students that dated back to 2005.
Fox News reports that 35 educators were indicted in March 2013 on charges that included racketeering, false statements, and theft. Of the 12 educators put on trial, only one was acquitted of racketeering. Verdicts for the other two charges were “mixed.”
Prosecutors alleged that the former educators were involved in a conspiracy to cheat on standardized tests. Their motive was to meet “federal and APS standards and receive bonuses or keep their jobs.” It was part of a program called No Child Left Behind law, which was tied to extra funding.
The Atlanta cheating scandal was comprised of educators who claim they were “pressured” by supervisors and former Superintendent Beverly Hall to increase the scores of students’ to show markedly higher “gains in student achievement.” In order to get more funding, schools had to prove their students were scoring high enough to earn that.
Educators claim supervisors made them fearful of losing their jobs by issuing threats and retaliation on teachers who attempted to report the conspiracy. Educators were said to hand students answers to tests or would erase incorrect answers and write the correct ones in.
Several educators had plea agreements while others delivered testimony at the trial.
Hall’s attorneys argued that she was “too sick” to testify. She died in March from breast cancer.
Prosecutors accused the convicted educators of caring more about getting salary bonuses than the education of their students.
The Atlanta cheating scandal lead to a long trial that began last August. It took over six weeks alone for jury selection. Testimony ended in late February, according to the report. A criminal investigation was conducted for two years by the Fulton County district attorney’s office. An estimated 50 schools and hundreds of interviews with school administrators, staff, students, and parents were conducted in the criminal investigation. Up to 180 educators were involved in the cheating scandal with 35 indicted. By the end of the trial on Wednesday, 12 were convicted.
The conspiracy theory in the Atlanta cheating scandal was noticed when students were receiving unrealistic test scores. A pattern was detected and authorities got involved.
MSN reports that racketeering charges carry up to 20 years in prison. Several of the educators will have a sentencing hearing on April 8.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]